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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Recent Comments

  • Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’: new from Plant World

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2010 at 04:50 PM

    Lomelosia 'Blue Mound',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldIsn’t great when not just a new plant is introduced, but a whole new genus? Ray Brown of Plant World in Devon has done just that with the arrival of Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’.

    Lomelosia is in the scabious family (Dipsacaceae) and there are around seventy species from the Eastern Mediterranean – it’s possible you’ve seen them if you’ve been on holiday in Crete or Turkey. It’s easy to see that they’re related to scabious and in fact they’re sometimes included in Scabiosa. They tend to grow in very hot, dry, gravelly places and most are difficult to grow in gardens – indeed they’ve never been in the RHS PlantFinder.

    ‘Blue Mound’ is an exception. It develops a dome of rather leathery green leaves topped by a long succession of blue scabious-like flowers all summer. One especially valuable feature is that the flowers are held on quite short stems so sit neatly above the foliage. Ray Brown of Plant World told me about it.

    “Unidentified seeds were sent to us by a customer who I believe collected it in Turkey walking in the Taurus mountains,” he said. “It seems to be very hardy in a hot or well-drained spot, like so many Turkish plants it just doesn't like winter wet.  After 3 or 4 years the plants gets leggy and untidy and it can be propagated it from cuttings although it is easier from seed.”

    Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’ produces very few seeds which are painstakingly collected by hand and only those which can be seen to be fertile (many are not) are included in the packet.

    This looks to be an exciting new plant for the Mediterranean garden.

    You can order seed of Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’ from Plant World Seeds.

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  • Ceanothus 'Tuxedo': the first black-leaved ceanothus

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2010 at 01:57 PM

    Ceanothus 'Tuxedo',Fitzgerald Nurseries,black plant. Image: ©Fitzgerald Nurseries.A sport is a small genetic variation in a plant and is usually noticed when it gives rise to a new flower colour or a shoot with variegated leaves. When it’s propagated it can prove to be a valuable new variety.

    Black leaved sports are much less common so the arrival of a new black-leaved Ceanothus - the first of its kind - is quite an event. Patrick Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Nurseries, a wholesale nursery in Kilkenny, Ireland, found this one on his nursery back in 1998 – this is what he says about it on his blog:

    “Let me tell you first I was genuinely shocked, out of a batch of about 6,000 young plants of Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’ here was this one plant that definitely was not green.” In fact the foliage is the colour of bitter chocolate.

    “Tuxedo proved quite difficult to propagate thereafter,’ Patrick continues, “and it took a lot of work to save the original plant. Eventually I learned it likes sunlight, and lots of it, probably due to the darkness of the foliage. Eventually we produced enough and the rest is our own little piece of Hort history. I managed to grow the first three stable plants from this one plant and from there bulked it up in numbers year by year.”

    Ceanothus 'Tuxedo',Fitzgerald Nurseries,black plant. Image: ©Fitzgerald Nurseries. Read More...

  • Silene 'Ray's Golden Campion': New from Plant World Seeds

    Graham Rice on 24 Feb 2010 at 01:31 PM
    Silene dioica 'Ray's Golden Campion',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldA spring combination of yellow foliage and vivid pink flowers may not be to everyone's taste but it certainly brightens up the spring garden. In essence, 'Ray's Golden Campion' is a neater, yellow-leaved form of the British native red campion, Silene dioica, and makes a lovely plant for a dark border where its unusual pale yellow leaves stand out vividly. The colour varies slightly from plant to plant.

    Raised after many years of work by Ray Brown, who's developed so many exciting new plants over the years at his Plant World in Devon, Ray told me about its background.

    "Years ago I bought a rather anaemic looking, pale-leaved, red campion at a Hardy Plant Society plant sale," Ray explained. "It was sterile and had a pretty weak constitution and burned in the sun. I grew this near ordinary ones and got no fertile golden seedlings at all or indeed any golden leaved plants. But the next generation threw up a couple of golden-leaved ones and these were the parents of the new strain.
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  • Primula Sylvan Series: New from Owl’s Acre

    Graham Rice on 21 Feb 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Primula 'Sylvan Lilac Rose' Jackanapes polyanthus. Image ©Simon Crawford.There’s a mystique about the unusual forms of primroses and polyanthus. Plants and seed have always been difficult to find, and if you grew them from seed you never knew how many were going to be true. Jackanapes flowers have one normal flower sitting inside another which has green leafy tissue at the tips of the petals. The intriguing flower form and that sense of history – they go back hundreds of years - are always captivating.

    So the news that seed of hardy Jackanapes polyanthus is now available in five separate colours, and that there’ll be no duds, is more than just welcome.

    Simon Crawford, a member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and renowned as a plant breeder around the world, told me: “These new hybrids have come about through a project I have been working on with Otka Plavcova at the Silva Tarouca Institute at Pruhonice near Prague. This follows on from her project creating Hose-in-Hose polyanthus that resulted in the You and Me Series. The basic material for this Jackanapes project came many years ago via Barnhaven Primroses, when they were still in Cumbria.”

    Primula 'Sylvan Burgundy' Jackanapes polyanthus. Image ©Simon Crawford.These plants are unusually challenging to breed so this is quite an achievement. The number of colours and the amount of seed available is still very limited so seed is available exclusively through Owl’s Acre Speciality Seeds.

    And they should be easier to grow than many that we’ve seen in the past. “These varieties are extremely hardy because of their genetic background,” Simon told me, “and their polyanthus habit helps to display the charming and unusual blooms to best effect whilst keeping them away from soil splash. They can be displayed in containers of course and are perhaps best shown in this way but I have no doubt they will be long lived and prosper in the border.”

    The Sylvan Series Jackanapes polyanthus are available in five separate colours: lilac-rose, yellow shades, violet shades, gold-laced burgundy shades, and a pastel pink mixture.

    You can order these hardy Sylvan Series polyanthus from Owl’s Acre Speciality Seeds.

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  • Eremurus ‘White Beauty’: New For 2010

    Graham Rice on 18 Feb 2010 at 06:55 PM

    Eremurus 'White Beauty' Ruiter. Image ©Crocus.co.uk.Eremurus, or foxtail lily, is one of the most dramatic of garden perennials. Tall slender spikes are lined with hundreds of starry flowers in white, pink, yellow and orange shades. But this is a case when it’s important to choose named plants, don’t raise plants from seed unless you don’t mind what colours you end up with.

    Dutch hybridiser N. C. Ruiter raised many fine varieties derived from crosses between yellow E. stenophyllus and the rarely seen pink E. olgae. Selections have been made from these Ruiter Hybrids over many years but they often deteriorate in quality. It’s good advice to buy them when they’re first released.

    So the time is right for ‘White Beauty’, a gorgeous new white form. At 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m in height, ‘White Beauty’ is a little more manageable in height than many and much more likely to be self supporting in most gardens. The buds open from the bottom up to create quite a spectacle and a clump of three or five plants really is impressive – especially set against the plain green background of a trimmed hedge.

    ‘White Beauty’ will also makes a fine cut flower – so order plenty of plants. Cut the spikes when the bottom third of the flowers have opened and keep them upright – if you lay them on the ground, as well as damaging the flowers the tips will tend to turn towards the light and you’ll lose that straightness in the spike. They take up a lot of water, so be prepared to keep topping up; they should last about two weeks.

    You can order plants of Eremurus ‘White Beauty’ from the RHS Online Plant Shop, from de Jaeger and from Rose Cottage Nursery.

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  • Osteospermum Falling Stars: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 09 Feb 2010 at 02:01 PM

    Osteospermum Falling Stars 'Sunbrella' trailing, hanging basket, container. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.In the last decade osteospermums have moved from sprawling more-or-less hardy plants for the front of the sunny border – with a few used in containers – to valuable bushy container plants in a very wide range of colours and flower forms.

    Almost all container plants are developing as trailing types as well as bushy types but good trailing osteospermum varieties have been hard to come by. The arrival of Falling Stars (Sunbrella Series) looks to change all that.

    As you can see from the picture, the plants knit together well to create a flowering basket in which the plants make a neat rounded display; they never trail down too far – remember those long long Surfinia petunias which only seemed to get in the way?

    Another valuable feature is that unlike some of the old creeping varieties, which would trail awkwardly if planted in a basket and show off their fat succulent stems, the stems on Falling Stars, while strong, are relatively thin and unobtrusive. And, actually, I think they’d be worth trying at the front of a sunny border as well – they’d probably make attractive summer ground cover.

    Osteospermum Falling Stars 'Sunbrella Taurus' trailing, hanging basket, container. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds. Read More...